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Taliban Captures Another District In Northern Afghanistan


Afghan security officials stop people at a checkpoint in Kandahar on June 8.

The Taliban has captured yet another district amid increased violence between the militants and the Western-backed Afghan government that has cast uncertainty over the future of the country once U.S.-led international forces leave by September.

Three local council members said on June 11 that militants overran the strategically important district of Ishkimish in the northern province of Takhar.

The loss occurred when government forces ran out of ammunition and air support failed to materialize after intense fighting the previous night.

Ishkimish is seen as a crucial hub that offers access to four more districts that might now come under renewed threat from the Taliban.

Multiple districts across Afghanistan have fallen to the Taliban since the beginning of the official withdrawal of the United States and other NATO troops on May 1.

Afghan officials said that so far this week the Taliban has taken control of at least three other districts in Uruzgan and Badghis provinces.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials on June 11 claimed to have killed at least 89 Taliban insurgents in Paktia, Ghor, Laghman, and Nangarhar provinces in the past 24 hours.

Police in Laghman said on June 11 that they had killed a senior Taliban commander, Badruddin, in fighting overnight there.

The Taliban has not yet commented on the claims made by Afghan government officials.

Both the government and the Taliban often claim heavy casualties against each other, but information is hard to independently verify.

With violence raging, there is concern the departure of foreign forces could lead to the collapse of the government in Kabul and the return of the Taliban to power.

One high priority is securing Kabul's international airport to ensure diplomatic and humanitarian work can continue in the country.

The Taliban reportedly rejected Turkey's proposal to guard and run Kabul's airport after U.S.-led NATO forces depart.

A Taliban spokesman said on June 10 that Turkey should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan together with all other international forces.

"Turkey was part of NATO forces in the past 20 years, so as such, they should withdraw from Afghanistan on the basis of the agreement we signed with the U.S. on 29th February 2020," Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Doha, told Reuters.

Under the February 2020 deal secured with the Taliban under former U.S. President Donald Trump, all U.S. forces and NATO forces were to be out of Afghanistan by May 1.

U.S. President Joe Biden pushed back the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops to September, citing logistical complications of leaving earlier.

Meanwhile, General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters this week that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was about half-completed and “continuing very smoothly.”

The U.S. military is removing 2,500 troops, 16,000 civilian contractors, and hundreds of tons of equipment in the withdrawal.

Some equipment is being destroyed or handed over to Afghan forces.

Turkey still has more than 500 soldiers in Afghanistan, who are training security forces.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AP
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